On 1/10/09, I called into the Narrow Mind radio program and asked a question concerning the Watchtower's view of paradise earth. In case you are unaware, Jehovah's Witnesses believe that 144,000 "anointed" Christians will rule in heaven for all eternity, while the rest live on a paradise earth. But i've been talking to one Jehovah's Witness who doesn't believe this, but instead, believes that all Christians will inherit paradise earth. In other words, there are not two classes of Christians. And honestly, i'm not quite sure of where I stand on the location of the "one hope." But I thought that Gene's answer to this question was pretty insightful.
The whole reason i'm even bringing this up is to be open about some of the possible changes that might be happening to some pretty important theological issues. And its not that the location of the "one hope" is all that crucial to the main issue at hand, but it is relevant and consequential. To what theological issue am I speaking? The millennium and the covenants. You see, I have grown up believing in a premillennial rapture, a future anti-Christ, a 7 year tribulation, and all that. But ever since I embraced reformed theology, I have been regularly challenged in this area, which is causing me to take some very serious considerations on my current position.
But what does this have to do with Jehovah's Witnesses? As one who is regularly involved in apologetics, I am constantly reminded that consistency is extremely important. No matter how well you can argue your case on one theological issue; if it is inconsistent with your position, then it is a failed argument. I know i'm speaking broadly here, but I think most people would agree with that. And though one might consider eschatology (the study of "last things") a relatively minor issue, its certainly not irrelevant in apologetics. Let me give you an example.
How many books have you read that defend Christianity against the beliefs of the Watchtower? You may notice something; most, if not all, are written from a dispensational framework. And there is no way to get around this, if you are a dispensationalist. Your eschatology will determine how you engage Jehovah's Witnesses on certain points. Let's take the 144,000 for instance. If you are a dispensationalist, you are forced to interpret this text in some way to represent 144,000 "Billy Grahams" who are literal Jews, who will evangelize during the tribulation. And if you are discussing this text with a Jehovah's Witness, you are attempting to show him why this isn't in reference to a separate "heavenly class" who will rule in heaven for all eternity. Furthermore, if you are dispensationalist, you are forced to "get around" those biblical texts which seem to establish a paradise earth, which will exist for all eternity. In other words, you will go to heaven after the millennium is over. And the one who doesn't have their eschatology developed and can't be consistent with his other theological views, will find himself in some difficult situations when discussing these issues in depth with a Jehovah's Witness.
And this is exactly what is happening with me right now. And I suppose I can thank Jehovah's Witnesses for encouraging me in this, though they probably don't even know it. Its really forcing me to look at these areas that I may not otherwise look. And its forcing me to take my consistency very seriously, even on those "minor" issues. So if there are changes that are to be made, it may take some time. I have done almost no reading in what the "other" side has to say. The most reading i've done in this area are Tim LaHaye books, which include his commentary on Revelation, among other books. So I think its about time I boldly go into those areas of discomfort where I may be forced to say, "yep, I was wrong." But its also very exciting, because i'm not afraid of truth. I love truth, and want to believe it no matter what the consequences. Anyway, enough rambling on this. Besides, my studies may leave me to embrace dispensational theology even more strongly.
If you want to hear first-hand what i'm going through in this area, I think you will find my call into the Narrow Mind radio show to be interesting. And you won't have to fast forward too far, as i'm the first caller. Let me know what you think!